When it comes to wood ticks, the race is on the Rangeby Maria Montello, Minnesota Public Radio
Cuyuna, Minn. — In Minnesota, they dedicate a weekend to commemorate the box elder bug, wintertime's in-law that would never leave.
In Walker, it's eelpout, a fish with a face that frightens adults and children alike. And in the tiny town of Cuyuna, they race wood ticks, the quintessential epidermal hitchhiker.
Besides being wonderful excuses to enjoy a summer day outdoors with your neighbors, there is wisdom to be garnered from the festivals of these small-town gems; if you live with them, celebrate them.
For one day Cuyuna, located in iron-rich east-central Minnesota, hosts more wood ticks than residents. This year 320 raced. The event is in its 28th year and with beer, bratwurst, burgers, and bugs, it promises to continue strong for many to come.
How does it work? Two ticks are gingerly placed in a center circle on a wooden board. Between swigs, the referee yells "Go!" and the ticks are off. Regardless of their grasp of that word's meaning, the little guys do go -- sometimes in circles, often hesitatingly.
The winner is the tick who makes it first to an outer circle at the edge of the board. And they do make it (or at least one does) and the loser is eliminated (not literally) from the contest.
More striking than the ambulation of a tick, is the enthusiasm around the event. Children and adults alike beckon and cheer their ticks with passion. Grandmas race elbow to elbow with Harley riders. Spectators hover over the race, stealing glimpses of the tiny ticks. I even witnessed one race where the owners were in bitter disagreement about whose tick was whose and, coincidentally, who would advance.
One cannot help but wonder what would become of such raw ambition and uncanny loyalty if channeled to something more grandiose than these bloodsuckers. But that may be the beauty of the thing.